Many people (especially us older folks) have a hard time understanding how the popular keto diet can be healthy. Most of us have been warned about cardiovascular disease, so a high fat diet seems contrary to what we have been taught for years. The good news is, there are many versions of a modified keto diet. I have created one for myself by cutting way back on refined carbohydrates like sugar, potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. I was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat years ago, so already switched to gluten free bread and pasta, but even they contain not so good for you carbs.
Food items like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, crackers and snacks contain high amounts of net carbs, so I have learned to avoid them. A great alternative to pasta and rice is cauliflower. You can purchase it (conveniently) already cut up in “pearls” (like the bags I buy, pictured below) or you can cut up a fresh head yourself.
As indicated on their label, these pearls of cauliflower contain a mere 2 grams of net carbs (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber) per 3/4 cup. This is a huge difference from pasta or rice. For example, pasta contains 62 grams of net carbs per 3/4 cup, brown rice contains 22 grams per 1/3 cup and white rice contains 32 grams per 1/3 cup. When you are limiting your net carbs to 25 grams per day, those numbers are quite significant. These cauliflower pearls can even be incorporated (with cheese) into a pizza dough!
Another great substitute for the high carb perils of pasta and rice is zucchini spirals. They too can be purchased already cut up, but you can buy them whole and cut them up yourself too if desired. I’m all about convenience. If an ingredient is easy to prepare, I will be much more likely to use it in a meal. Spaghetti squash can also be used as a substitute for starchy pasta.
I also make sure I have lots of crunchy salad ingredients on hand to throw together a quick lunch option. Leafy greens, broccoli slaw, seeds, avocado, tomatoes and cucumbers (all contain low net carbs) as well as a variety of low carb salad dressings are mainstays in my fridge. These choices of good carbs have always been staples in my diet, often incorporated into a morning smoothie.
For calories formerly taken up by bad carbs in my daily diet, I have increased my intake of fats, although I stick to good fats. Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as good fats. I don’t like the way so many animal fats (processed and fatty meats, butter, cream, lots of cheese) recommended on the original keto diet make me feel. Constipation and stomach cramps are no fun!
Therefore, to get my fat macros (that’s the keto term), I consume more plant based omega 3s. Fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, almond milk, flax seeds and coconut oil are my favourites. It is easy to replace the fats suggested in keto menus with the healthier versions. For example, I substitute almond milk for full fat cream and olive oil for butter.
My protein intake remains about the same. Protein consumption is important to retain muscle mass, especially for post menopausal women like myself. I have always leaned (pun intended) towards lean meats and fish for sources of protein, so that aspect needed no modification.
For four weeks now I have been following this modified keto version. I have lost a few pounds, but weight loss was not my primary goal. More importantly, I have noticed increased muscle tone in my abdominal area. These are the muscles I have not seen in many years, not since before my kids were born. That is impressive (I think) since those four weeks included one week of vacation (lots of margaritas) as well as the holiday season during which tempting goodies were hard to resist.